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After legalization for adults, teen marijuana use hasn't gone up

Earlier this month, we wrote about how the legalization of medical marijuana (and recreational marijuana) has not fulfilled the doom-and-gloom predictions of many critics of legal reform. Despite evidence to the contrary, however, some public officials continue to allege that legalization of marijuana for any purpose has made us less safe as a society.

Here in Colorado, arrests for marijuana-related drug crimes have dropped considerably, but that hasn't been the only benefit. The state has earned tens of millions of dollars in tax revenue. Moreover, legalization has not had serious negative consequences for Colorado's youth. The results of a recently published study reveal that teen marijuana use has not increased significantly in states that have legalized medical marijuana.

The data comes from an annual survey of teenagers called the "Monitoring the Future" study. Drug use is among the topics covered in the survey. Looking at data over multiple years, researchers wanted to see if legalization of medical marijuana caused a rise in use among teenagers in medical-marijuana states.

What they found is that in states where medical marijuana became legal, teenagers used pot (before it was legal) at rates of about 16 percent (compared to about 13 percent in other states). After the drug became legal, there was no statistically significant rise in marijuana use among teenagers in those states.

It is important to remember that this study was not about marijuana charges or convictions. It was only about marijuana use. And according to the study results, legalization did not really impact rates of pot use among teenagers.

Marijuana is (and has long been) the most widely used illicit drug in America. And although legalization of marijuana has not been a panacea, neither has it corrupted our nation's youth, as some predicted it would. Instead, it is a common-sense reform that will hopefully reduce prison populations and slightly de-escalate the never-ending war on drugs.

Source: The Verge, "Teens didn't start smoking more weed after medical pot was legalized," Nayanah Siva, June 17, 2015

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